Monday, April 23, 2012

John Copley, Briton

Jane Kamensky has a great article in Sunday's Boston Globe about how Americans think about John Singleton Copley. She argues that our collective memory of Copley — as embodied in the MFA's exhibition of his work in its "Revolutionary Boston" exhibit — positions Copley as an American and a participant in the Revolutionary movement, but that it would be more appropriate to think of him as what he was: a British provincial.
But Copley did not imagine himself that way, and might well have been surprised to discover how thoroughly America has claimed him. Copley’s life, his works, and his words defined him as a subject of the British empire, not a citizen of the American republic. Born in British America in 1738, he died in his comfortable home on Hanover Square in London in 1815, having spent the Revolution, the War of 1812, and more than half of his long life in England. Copley was buried as he was born: a loyal subject of the crown. He never set foot in an independent United States.
 Read the whole article.

The more I read about the MFA's Art of the Americas Wing, the more I wonder about whether the gap between academic history and public history is bridgeable.

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